The Syrian government has recently used helicopter gunships and fighter jets to attack rebels and residential areas. Rebels in Deir al-Zor overran an air defence building early on Saturday, taking at least 16 captives and seizing an unknown number of anti-aircraft rockets, said Rami Abdulrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Video posted on the internet by activists showed the officers and soldiers captured by the rebel fighters, and al-Arabiya television broadcast footage of what it said were rockets and ammunition seized in the raid. Syrian TV also claimed that government forces had repelled an attack on the Rasm al-Abboud air base near Aleppo  and showed footage of captured guns and vehicles. Abdulrahman said rebels also attacked the Hamdan military airbase at Albu Kamal, close to Syria‘s eastern border with Iraq, but did not succeed in breaking into it. The attacks come three days after rebels attacked the Taftanaz air base in Idlib province, where they said several helicopters were damaged. The insurgents also said they shot down a fighter jet and a helicopter last week. Assad’s forces have launched numerous air strikes against civilians in rebel-held parts of Syria. Helicopters have strafed towns with heavy machine guns, and jets have unleashed rockets and bombs against opposition strongholds. Turkey has called for the creation of safe havens inside Syria after the UN refugee agency said the flow of Syrians into Turkey and Jordan – which already host more than 150,000 registered refugees – was increasing markedly. Turkish government sources said Ankara would again push for agreement on safe zones inside Syria at the UN general assembly later this month and would try to put pressure on Russia and Iran, which strongly oppose any such action. The Turkish prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, a former ally of the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, said: “We cannot take such a measure unless the United Nations security council decides in favour of it … First a decision for the no-fly zone must be taken, then we would be able to take a step towards a buffer zone,” Erdogan said in an interview broadcast on Turkish television late on Friday. “Bashar al-Assad has come to the end of his political life. At the moment, Assad is acting in Syria not as a politician, but as an element, an actor, of war,” he said. A UN official said 1,600 people were killed in Syria in the last week, the highest weekly figure in nearly a year and a half of conflict, and aid agencies say living conditions are worsening dramatically. An estimated 1.2 million people are uprooted within Syria, including 150,000 in Damascus and surrounding areas, according to the UN. The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, said he had pressed the Syrian government to allow international aid workers in, and received a positive reply during talks in Tehran this week. Ban told Reuters he had “long and in-depth discussions with the Syrian officials” on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement meeting. “While I criticised all the parties that have been depending on military means to resolve this issue, the primary responsibility rests with the Syrian government,” he said. But the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said it would be wrong to press Damascus alone to end the violence. “It is absolutely unrealistic to say that the unilateral capitulation of one of the parties in conflict is the only way out, in a situation when there’s ongoing urban fighting,” he told students of the Moscow Institute of Foreign Relations. (The Guardian).]]>

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